Dry eye occurs when the eyes aren’t sufficiently moisturized, leading to itching, redness and pain from dry spots on the surface of the eye. Your eyes may become dry and irritated because the tear glands don’t produce enough tears, or because the tears themselves have a chemical imbalance.

People usually begin experiencing dry eye symptoms as they age, but the condition can also result from certain medications, diseases or injuries.

Dry eye is not only painful; it can also damage the eye’s tissues and impair vision. Fortunately, many treatment options are available.

Non-surgical treatments for dry eye included increasing humidity at home or work, or the use of artificial tears or moisturizing ointment and Restasis eye drops to increase tear production.

Surgical treatment for dry eye is the insertion of punctual plugs. These are inserted in your tear ducts and allow the tears to remain on your eye longer. There are two types of punctual plugs the first is Collagen plugs which are temporary and Silicone plugs which are permanent. Both of these treatments are painless and are performed in the office.

Causes Of Dry Eye

People usually begin experiencing dry-eye symptoms as they age (they are more common in people older than 50), but they can also result from certain medications, medical conditions or injuries. Dry eye tends to affect women more than men because of the hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy and menopause. Oral contraceptives can also affect the consistency of tears. Other causes of dry eye include the following:

  • Antihistamines, decongestants and blood-pressure medications
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome and thyroid disease
  • Environmental conditions such as smoke, wind or excessive sun
  • Long-term contact lens use
  • Eye injury
  • Eye or eyelid surgery
  • Inflammation of the eye (conjunctivitis or keratitis)

Any of these factors, alone or in combination, can affect the frequency or consistency of tears, either of which can lead to dry eye.

Symptoms Of Dry Eye

The symptoms of dry eye typically occur in both eyes, and include the following:

  • Stinging, burning or scratchiness
  • Eye fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Excessive tearing
  • Blurry vision

Dry eye can damage eye tissues, leaving tiny abrasions on the surface that can impair vision. There are, however, many treatments for relieving dry-eye symptoms, restoring eye health and protecting vision.

Treatment Of Dry Eye

Treatment for dry eye depends on its cause and severity, as well as the patient’s overall health and personal preference.

Nonsurgical treatments, which include the following, are often effective:

  • Deliberately blinking
  • Increasing humidity levels at home or work
  • Using artificial tears or a lubricating ointment
  • Eye drops to enhance natural tear production(Restasis or Xiidra)
  • Avoiding environmental irritants
  • Eliminating medications that may be responsible
  • Adding Omega-3 fatty acids to the diet or taking them as supplements

In many cases, simple lifestyle changes can alleviate dry-eye symptoms.

If less invasive methods are unsuccessful, surgical treatments, which include the following, may be an option:

  • Insertion of punctal plugs to limit tear drainage
  • Punctal cautery to permanently close the drainage holes
  • Treatment of an underlying disease

If an eyelid condition is causing dry eye, eyelid surgery may be recommended. If dry eye is left untreated, it can lead to complications that include pain, corneal ulcers/scars or vision loss.

Preventing Dry Eye

There are steps that can be taken to prevent dry-eye symptoms. Simple lifestyle modifications such as wearing protective glasses on windy days, and giving the eyes a break during reading or other tasks that require intense focus, can effectively reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms.